News Brief

Russia’s Chechnya Has at Least Six Secret Prisons for Gays

There are at least six secret prisons in Chechnya used for detaining and torturing men suspected of being gay, according to Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, who broke the story of mass arrests, torture and killings of gay men in the Russian republic.

Locations of two of these six prisons have been identified, one by Novaya Gazeta and another by RFE/RL but Novaya Gazeta did not mention where the other four prisons are located.

“We have handed over to Russia’s Investigative Committee the personal data of 26 residents of Chechnya who have been illegally detained and, according to our information, fallen victim to [cruel] extrajudicial punishment,” said Novaya Gazeta’s article. “This list includes people killed only on the basis of suspicion of homosexuality.”

In early April Novaya Gazeta reported on mass arrests of dozens of gay men across the southern Russian region. Chechnya’s government spokesperson called Novaya’s investigation “absolute lies and disinformation” because there “are no gay people” in Chechnya. In a meeting with with Vladimir Putin on April 19, Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov called Novaya’s investigation “provocative” and said that homosexuals were not being detained in Chechnya.

Novaya’s newsroom and individual reporters were threatened after publishing the investigation by Chechnya’s religious and political elite who organized a meeting of 15,000 people in Grozny’s largest mosque to address Novaya’s allegations.

International media widely reported Novaya’s investigation and LGBTQ activists have been protesting outside of Russian embassies and consulates around the world. But in an op-ed examining reactions of governments around the world, Ukrainian journalist Maxim Eristavi points to a meak response from officials in the West and in the region, even from countries that often condemn Russia’s foreign policy.

“The White House has said nothing on the subject, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson failed to bring it up during his first visit to Moscow,” Eristavi wrote. “Yet perhaps the most appalling silence has come from Russia’s neighbors to the west. Usually quick to condemn Moscow’s violations of human rights and international law, many Eastern European countries have been notably reluctant to side with the victims of this latest campaign.”